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What’s on your ballot in 2022?

Vote Center Bernalillo County
Gino Gutierrez
/
Source NM
A polling location on Albuquerque’s Westside in 2022

There are all sorts of reasons people don’t bother with elections. From tiresome, ugly campaign ads to what feels like people yelling at each other on the socials, it can all start to feel like a lot.

But beneath the constant bids for your attention and your vote are other choices.

Often, there are some down-ballot questions that you may not have heard much about, but you’ll really see the consequences of those decisions made directly by voters this election in your daily life in the years to come. Public education in N.M. is a big one that sticks out this year (see Constitutional Amendment 1). But so does funding for seniors and public libraries.

The crews behind Source New Mexico and KUNM News picked out some of those key issues to highlight for you here. And we’ve got the rundown on the big races everyone’s talking about, too. Who’s in control in Congress could come down to a few seats. One of them is Congressional District 2 in New Mexico. And President Biden is promising to codify abortion rights nationally with the help of Congress should a few more of those seats turn blue.

Elections administrators are working to ensure voters can cast their ballots. There are laws on the books that aim to make sure you can do it easily and safely in New Mexico, too.

Whether you’re heading to the polls to vote early, or you’re planning to turn out on Tuesday, Nov. 8 — that’s Election Day proper — here are some of the choices you’ll see in front of you. (Marisa Demarco / Source NM)

GOVERNOR

Michelle Lujan Grisham (D)
Mark Ronchetti (R)
Karen Bedonie (L)

The race between incumbent Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and her Republican challenger, former meteorologist Mark Ronchetti, is in its final stretch. The campaigns have paid particular attention to a few key issues: crime, the economy and education.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham Dobbs Protest
Marisa Demarco
/
Source NM
N.M. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham speaks before a rally of hundreds supporting abortion rights following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to upend federal protections for abortion rights on Friday, June 24, 2022

While the candidates have sparred over the governor’s response to the pandemic, within those arguments emerge two issues a recent Albuquerque Journal poll found are particularly important to voters: New Mexico’s economic strength and public education system.

New Mexico had some of the strictest COVID mandates in the country, and Ronchetti has pinned New Mexico’s poor test scores on the governor, though the state sat at the bottom of these rankings long before she took office.

“Our kids sat out of school the sixth most days of any state in the country. It was absolutely devastating, because we’re 51st in education,” the candidate said at a recent debate on KOB.

He’s proposed providing education stipends for students in first grade through third grade from families with low incomes and diverting more funding into classrooms.

At that debate, Lujan Grisham defended her decision to keep schools closed for as long as she did, noting that it wasn’t easy.

“We’ve stayed the course. We’re investing now. It will, in fact, make the differences that we need,” she said.

Investments during her first term have included teacher pay hikes, tuition-free college statewide, and expanded preschool and child care among other initiatives.

Ronchetti has also hit the governor on the impact her public health emergency orders had on the state’s economy and New Mexicans’ pocketbooks. He proposes cutting taxes for low- and middle-income New Mexicans and dropping the gross receipts tax each year.

Lujan Grisham oversaw similar policies in her first term, including cutting the GRT for the first time in 40 years this summer.

Some of her other pandemic-era economic policies included increasing and expanding the Working Families Tax Credit, lowering sales taxes, eliminating taxes on Social Security income, enacting a state child tax credit, and providing direct financial relief to households. She called this out at the KOB-TV debate.

“Don’t tell me about taking my own plan for supporting New Mexicans and that you’ll deliver that in a Democratic legislature,” she told Ronchetti.

She’s also touted a dropping unemployment rate, though it remains above the national average at 4.4%, according to the Department of Workforce Solutions.

Meanwhile, crime has also surfaced as a key issue in the race, with 82% of likely voters noting it as a “serious problem” in an Albuquerque Journal poll.

Ronchetti has criticized the governor for a decreasing prison population as the state struggles with one of the highest violent crime rates in the nation. A recent legislative report confirms that while arrests for violent offenses have dropped since 2019, when the governor took office, the statewide violent crime rate has too. The same can’t be said for Albuquerque, however, which has seen record homicides.

While Ronchetti has campaigned on increasing penalties for those who commit violent crimes and keeping more people accused of crimes in jail awaiting trial, Lujan Grisham has too. The governor has signed legislation increasing some penalties and supported creating stricter pre-trial detention rules, though that proposal failed to pass the Democratic-controlled legislature earlier this year.

Mark Ronchetti DeSantis Rally
Jessica Onsurez
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Carlsbad Current-Argus
New Mexico Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Ronchetti on Aug. 14, 2022 at a political rally in Carlsbad, N.M.

The candidates have feuded over support for officers, as well, though both have pro-police platforms.

“The policies that this administration has advocated has made it far more difficult to be a police officer than it has to be a criminal,” Ronchetti said at a GOP primary debate on KOAT in May.

Ronchetti cited a 2021 bill the governor signed that opened officers up to prosecution for civil rights violations. However, the governor has also boosted funding, training and recruitment efforts for law enforcement during her first term, including providing 16% raises for state police.

That said, Ronchetti has earned the endorsements of the New Mexico Fraternal Order of Police and the Albuquerque Police Officers Association.

Abortion has also emerged as a key issue in the governor’s race, with Ronchetti proposing a statewide referendum that would amend the constitution to ban abortions after 15 weeks with some exceptions. Lujan Grisham has expanded access to the procedure in New Mexico, including protecting providers and patients from criminalization, and overturning a dormant ban ahead of the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

Lujan Grisham has a significant fundraising lead, having raised over $11 million in her reelection bid, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. That’s compared with the $7.8 million Ronchetti has brought in. Libertarian candidate Karen Bedonie’s campaign has gotten about $136,000 in contributions.

A KOB poll conducted by SurveyUSA in October shows Lujan Grisham with a double-digit 53% to 37% lead over Ronchetti. Bedonie secured the support of just 3% of those polled. (Nash Jones / KUNM)

CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 1

Michelle Garcia Holmes (R) 
Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D) 
Victoria Gonzales (Write-in) 

With the new redistricting maps, CD1 now includes some of Rio Rancho, along with central and southeastern parts of the state, like Santa Rosa, Fort Sumner and Carrizozo. Since 2009, CD1 winners have been Democrats, but with the redrawn boundaries, there was a slight increase in Republican voters in the new district.

CD1 Candidates 2022
Gino Gutierrez
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Source NM
Left: Rep. Melanie Stansbury, the incumbent Democrat for Congressional District 1, speaks at the All Pueblo Council of Governors forum in mid-October. Right: Republican Michelle Garcia Holmes at the forum.

Democratic incumbent Melanie Stansbury won a six-way race for the CD1 seat in the 2021 special election when then-Rep. Deb Haaland became U.S. secretary of the Interior Department. In her re-election campaign, Stansbury has focused on her record over the past year, emphasizing her support of the massive bipartisan package that will bring $3.7 billion to help improve New Mexico’s broadband, water and road infrastructure.

On the campaign trail, Stansbury focuses on climate change, while also speaking out about the protection of abortion rights. She refers to her legislative record of being involved in 300 bills that tackled issues of public safety, health care, education, and community well-being.

Republican candidate Michelle Garcia Holmes is a retired Albuquerque Police Department detective and a former chief of staff in the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office under Gary King, where she established the first statewide government corruption division. She said her top priorities would be tackling crime, such as human trafficking, and fentanyl-related deaths. She said she wants to provide more funding for the police and implement a stricter immigration policy. Garcia Holmes opposes abortion rights and said during the primary that she stands against taxpayer-funded abortion.

Victoria Gonzales is the director of School and Community Initiatives at Special Olympics New Mexico and is the independent write-in candidate. (Jeanette DeDios / KUNM)

CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 2

Rep. Yvette Herrell (R) 
Gabe Vasquez (D)

This race is tight, and with a shift in power possible in the U.S. House, eyes are on New Mexico. After electoral maps were redrawn, this southern district which usually (though not always) votes for a Republican lost parts of the conservative, oil-rich southeast of the state. It gained part of Albuquerque, including the South Valley, which is majority Hispanic and Democratic-leaning.

Herrell Vasquez CD2 2022 election
Alice Fordham
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KUNM
Left: U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell (R-New Mexico) speaks briefly during the opening of the RNC Hispanic community center in southwest Albuquerque in mid-August. (Photo by Shelby Wyatt for Source NM) Right: Democratic candidate for Congress Gabe Vasquez speaks at the Pelican Spa in Truth or Consequences, in New Mexico’s Congressional District 2.

Republican incumbent Yvette Herrell appeals to her conservative base with policies like increasing oil and gas production. With the proportion of voting-age Hispanics in the district increasing to 56%, the Republican National Committee has also opened two Hispanic outreach centers in Las Cruces and Albuquerque, where she has attended events.

Vasquez, whose family is from Mexico, often speaks with voters in Spanish and tells of his rise from humble beginnings to his work in conservation, as a city councilor in Las Cruces and on Sen. Martin Heinrich’s team. He likes to hunt but supports tighter gun control laws. (Alice Fordham / KUNM)

CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 3

Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez (D)
Alexis Martinez Johnson (R)

Since CD3 was created in 1983, only one Republican, Bill Redmond, held the seat for two years, finishing out the term when then-Rep. Bill Richardson took a job in the Clinton administration.

Representatives from the northern district are a who’s who of New Mexico political dynasties: Richardson, former U.S. Sen. Tom Udall and current U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Luján.

Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez is the latest to take the seat in the old version of the northern district — and the last. Redistricting extended the district south along the eastern part of New Mexico into conservative towns such as Roswell, Clovis and Hobbs.

That’s meant northern district candidates must now campaign in the south.

CD3 2022 Candidates
Gino Gutierrez
/
Source NM
Left: U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez speaks at an event in Albuquerque for victims of the fire in northern New Mexico in late September just before Congress approved billions for compensation, aid and recovery. Right: Alexis Martinez Johnson, Republican candidate for Congressional District 3, at the All Pueblo Council of Governors forum in mid-October.

During her first term in Congress, Leger Fernandez fully supported President Joe Biden’s infrastructure agenda that formed large investments into rural health care, broadband and tribal criminal justice systems. She sponsored the Hermit’s Peak-Calf Canyon Fire Assistance Act, a form of consequence — $2.5 billion to hold the federal government accountable for igniting the largest wildfire in state history.

Supporting the Biden plan does create opposition with the new voters redistricting brought that Leger Fernandez now hopes to represent. Her support for the Inflation Reduction Act means the federal government must reduce carbon emissions by at least 40% by 2030. This is viewed as a threat to her constituents in the oil and gas-rich San Juan Basin and new voters from the Permian Basin that now includes Roswell and Artesia.

This is where Martinez Johnson wants to make her lane. She mixes rhetoric aimed at oil and gas deregulation with a tough-on-crime approach that includes no form of gun restriction. Rallying the shared business interests in the Four Corners and southeast part of the state could build real political opposition to the heavily blue district.

While Leger Fernandez retains the block of hardline Democratic voters in Santa Fe, Taos and Pueblo communities, her Republican opponent Martinez Johnson is gaining support from the national GOP in an effort to at least show up with a campaign, signaling this is not just a seat for whoever wins the Democratic primary.

Martinez Johnson met fundraising levels to make a prominent list by the National Republican Congressional Committee. Her placement on the “Young Guns” list — not to be confused with Lou Diamond Phillips and his crew — gives Martinez Johnson access to national fundraising lists and prominence as a “top-tier candidate by national leaders.” (Shaun Griswold / Source NM)

SECRETARY OF STATE

Maggie Toulouse Oliver (D)
Audrey Trujillo (R)
Mayna Myers (L)

This year New Mexicans are deciding who should be the next secretary of state — New Mexico’s chief elections officer.

Whoever wins would be responsible for maintaining voter registration lists, testing voting machines and certifying precinct boundaries, as well as, reporting campaign finances and regulating lobbyists.

Sec of State Candidates 2022
Gino Gutierrez
/
Source NM
Left: New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver pauses for a second during her speech on Friday, June 24, 2022, at a rally for abortion rights at Tiguex Park in protest of the Supreme Court decision that ended federal abortion rights protections. (Photo by Shelby Wyatt for Source NM) Right: Republican challenger running for Secretary of State Audrey Trujillo speaks before the All Pueblo Council of Governors in mid-October.

Here in New Mexico, the secretary of state also maintains things like trademarks and is the recorder keeper of some loans.

Incumbent Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver is a Democrat who has held the position since 2016. And she’s running against Republican Audrey Trujillo and Libertarian Mayna Myers.

The Albuquerque Journal reports her top priorities are voter accessibility, campaign finance transparency, and combatting election disinformation. Earlier this year her office launched a website to fact check false information.

“Election lies and disinformation are everywhere,” she said. “That’s why as secretary of state, I put accurate and accessible voting information online.”

That campaign video associates her main challenger — Trujillo — with politicians spreading false claims that former President Donald Trump won the 20-20 election. Trujillo has echoed this lie on various platforms, like on former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon’s podcast, according to Source New Mexico.

She uses this lens to call for “fair” elections, that “every legal vote will be counted,” and said she’s pushing “to limit absentee voting only to disabled, elderly, military and voters who are temporarily out of the state… ”

“Things are going to change, because the will of the people is what we need to protect,” she said.

So far, Trujillo has raised $82,000 compared with about $583,000 raised by Toulouse Oliver, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. That includes both cash and in-kind donations.

If the governor cannot perform their role, the secretary is also third in line to head the state after the lieutenant governor. (Emma Gibson / KUNM)

ATTORNEY GENERAL

Jeremy Gay (R)
Raúl Torrez (D)

The race for New Mexico’s top prosecutor is between the current Bernalillo County District Attorney and a newcomer with one legal win already during this campaign cycle.

Raúl Torrez wants to transition his experience as the DA in the largest county in New Mexico up to Santa Fe to be the state’s chief legal officer responsible for enforcing state law.

Torrez was elected in 2017 to lead the Bernalillo County DA’s Office. Before that he held a position with the Department of Justice under the Obama administration.

NM Attorney General candidates 2022
Gino Gutierrez
/
Source NM
Left: Bernalillo County District Attorney Raúl Torrez is running as the Democratic candidate for the New Mexico AG’s Office. Right: Republican challenger Jeremy Gay.

He supports legal frameworks to protect tribal court interests in sovereignty cases, wants to increase investments to modernize tools police officers say they need to investigate and track crime, and publicly supports reproductive rights and access to abortion care services.

Enter Republican Jeremy Gay. A District Court judge ruled in late September he could remain on the ballot after a legal challenge about whether he met residency requirements.

His legal experience started as a U.S. Marine Corps Officer where he was a judge advocate, defending active military members and offering legal advice. He moved into a role as a special assistant with the U.S. Attorney under the Trump administration, where he said he prosecuted, trained and assisted federal law enforcement officers in investigating and prosecuting crimes.

Gay told the Albuquerque Journal he supports a settlement in the fight over Rio Grande water between New Mexico and Texas that’s before the U.S. Supreme Court. He said he would like to see the AG invest money in prosecuting organized gangs. His tough-on-crime approach is aimed at punishing people with multiple arrests, but he does not present specific ideas. He said he would support the state law when it comes to reproductive rights — a law that is tacit but could change with legislative efforts.

Gay could be a long shot to win this seat. Torrez has name recognition, cash advantage and the Democratic Party machine behind him. A Journal poll in August showed he had a 16-point advantage over Gay. However, Gay released numbers from GOP-pollsters Cygnal, showing a near deadlock between the candidates.

Gay’s advertising has more prominence on the airwaves, which could lend some credibility to his poll showing a major jump. If anything, he already won at least once during this general election cycle when a judge ruled in his favor over an attempt to remove him from the ballot by a group questioning his New Mexico residency.

Now voters have a choice between something new and something blue. (Shaun Griswold / Source NM)

STATE TREASURER

Harry B Montoya (R) 
Laura M Montoya (D)

Republican Harry Montoya and Democrat Laura Montoya are running to replace State Treasurer Tim Eichenberg who is leaving office after serving two terms, the maximum allowed in New Mexico. Laura Montoya, a former two-term Sandoval County treasurer, beat Heather Benavidez, Eichenberg’s chief of staff, in the Democratic primary.

NM Treasurer candidates 2022
Gino Gutierrez
/
Source NM
Running for state Treasurer: Democratic candidate Laura Montoya and Republican Harry Montoya.

Eichenberg raised eyebrows during the primary race with complaints to the Secretary of State’s Office and the State Ethics Commission about Montoya’s campaign contributions and employment status. The complaints caused many to speculate the incumbent was attempting to tip the scales to help his colleague.

Nevertheless Montoya won with a 17% margin.

Republican candidate Harry Montoya is a former two-term Santa Fe County Commissioner who says, like his opponent, he is committed to legality, transparency and accountability. He does not support increasing allocations from the Land Grant Permanent Fund to early childhood education. Democrat Laura Montoya said she would vote for the measure, which is on ballots as Constitutional Amendment 1. (Kaveh Mowahed / KUNM)

STATE AUDITOR

Joseph Maestas (D) 
Travis Steven Sanchez (L)

The state auditor conducts regular financial reviews of state and local public entities and can step in to audit an agency if there are suspicions of mismanagement. Current State Auditor Brian Colón is leaving the office to run for New Mexico attorney general.

Former Española mayor Joseph Maestas, a Democrat, is running against Libertarian candidate Travis Steven Sanchez.

Maestas, also a former city councilor for Santa Fe, sits on the Public Regulation Commission. He touts his 30 years as a civil engineer working at various levels of government and his accomplishments as an elected official.

Sanchez told the Santa Fe New Mexican that he’s been a small business owner since 2016 in a high-stakes industry that has no room for accounting errors. He said he intends to run the office without bias and would hold government officials accountable regardless of their political party.

Sanchez opted into the race in late August, apparently replacing a write-in Libertarian Robert “Jason” Vaillancourt. Vaillancourt did not appear to have a website outlining his plans for the auditor’s office. He is now listed as “withdrawn” on the New Mexico Secretary of State’s website.

No Republican is in the auditor race. (Patrick Lohmann / Source NM)

PUBLIC LANDS COMMISSIONER

Stephanie Garcia Richard (D)
Jefferson Byrd (R)
Larry Marker (I)

Three candidates are vying for the role of commissioner of public lands, the official that manages state land and mineral rights.

This position oversees royalties and leases for production of oil and gas — one of the top money-making industries for the state — renewable energy, agriculture and other commercial uses.

Democratic incumbent Stephanie Garcia Richard is trying for a second term in office. Although the number of acres leased decreased since Garcia Richard started in 2019, New Mexico produced record quantities of gas and oil during those four years. At the same time, she tripled renewable energy production in her first term. She created a Renewable Energy Office within the State Land Office that’s focused on dozens of solar and wind energy projects.

Public lands com
Gino Gutierrez
/
Source NM
Left: New Mexico Public Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard, a Democrat. Right: Republican challenger Jefferson Byrd.

Republican opponent Jefferson Byrd said he wants to prioritize and expand oil and gas production. Prices at the pump will stay down in New Mexico, he said, if the U.S. starts becoming energy-independent by using its own oil and gas supply.

Marker agrees that the state needs to take advantage of the booming oil and gas industry, but he said he would be sure not to serve either large oil and gas companies or radical environmentalists. He also wants to see uranium mining in New Mexico again and said new mining companies can be tasked with cleaning up their own messes and helping to clean up other abandoned sites.

Garcia Richard is way ahead in funding with over $400,000 contributions, compared with Byrd’s $46,650 and Marker’s $15,000. (Megan Gleason / Source NM)

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT 1: More Land Grant Permanent Fund money to education

Voters in the November election will have the option to approve Constitutional Amendment 1, which would invest money from a state trust in our youngest children and school systems. The Land Grant Permanent Fund is the second-wealthiest fund in the country, and advocates have pushed for years to use more of the money to address New Mexico’s historically low child well-being rankings.

The Land Grant Permanent Fund already disburses money every year for education, but this amendment would increase the amount by a little over 1.25%, making $150 million available for early childhood education.

Another $100 million would go to public schools to hire more teachers and support staff, expand programs for at-risk students, and pay for building maintenance and repair.

school portable Albuquerque
Marisa Demarco
/
Source NM
Classroom barrack at an elementary school in the Barelas neighborhood of Albuquerque

Hailey Heinz is deputy director and senior researcher of the Cradle to Career Policy Institute at the University of New Mexico. She said that when people think of early childhood, they think pre-K, but it also includes home visits for pregnant people and families with infants, as well as child care. Heinz said those fields face a shortage of workers.

“The wages for this are historically, tragically low,” she said.

Heinz acknowledges that in recent years, the state has made funding for early childhood education a priority. But she said we need to imagine a system that has a culture of plenty rather than scarcity.

And while this additional funding could have an impact, she adds, we should set expectations. “The challenges that lead to New Mexico’s child well-being ranking being what they are, are really layered and complex and sticky,” she said. “And I think we should be clear, right, about the fact that this or any other ballot initiative won’t be the cure all that somehow fixes systemic challenges.” (Taylor Velazquez / KUNM)

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT 2: The state’s anti-donation clause

Last year the superintendent of Albuquerque Public Schools had to walk back a promise to use $6 million in federal relief dollars for staff bonuses. The state auditor told him it might violate the state’s anti-donation clause, which prohibits government entities from donating or lending to “any person, association or public or private corporation or in aid of any private enterprise for the construction of any railroad, unless a constitutional exception exists,” according to the Legislative Council Service.

The issue in this case was timing. APS planned to give the extra funds at the end of teachers’ contracts. State Auditor Brian Colón said the anti-donation clause does not allow public employees to get additional compensation for work they had already done. So APS decided to pay the teachers the bonuses at the beginning of the school year.

The anti-donation clause pops up in many ways around New Mexico, from Otero County declining to pay for legal representation for former Commissioner Couy Griffin in a lawsuit to remove him from office, to restrictions on giving funds from the Gold King Mine spill settlement to individuals harmed by the pollution and the allocation of elk hunting licenses to private landowners.

The clause has not been really tested in the courts, said Kathy Brook, co-president of the League of Women Voters of New Mexico.

“It’s somewhat up in the air as to what the clause means or how it would be interpreted. It’s often just cited as ‘No, you can’t do that, because of the anti-donation clause,’” she said.

But over the years, there have been many exemptions tacked onto the clause, and now Constitutional Amendment 2 seeks to modify it further by allowing the state to provide funds and other resources for “essential services,” mostly for residential purposes. Those include infrastructure for the internet, energy, water and sewer.

The origins of this clause here and other Western states lie with the railroad boom in the late 19th century, where powerful corporations were granted public money for private ventures. But since then, other states have relaxed some of the restrictions in these clauses to allow for projects that serve the public good, according to the LCS.

In New Mexico, it has been amended six times to allow funds for things like helping sick or impoverished people, local economic development, some scholarship programs, and building affordable housing.

Proponents say this latest amendment could help boost access to essential services, especially in rural areas. It could also help the state leverage more federal money for rural development, as other states have done.

If it passes, then the Legislature would have to pass legislation to roll it out, allowing for more public input and deliberation.

But opponents say that leaves too much discretion to future legislatures and too much uncertainty about how the funds would be used. The amendment could mean public money is not adequately protected. Paul Gessing with the libertarian Rio Grande Foundation wrote in an op-ed that the amendment could lead to more corruption with public funds and more “corporate welfare,” using public funds to give special benefits to private companies.

His group wants to see the anti-donation clause made stronger rather than see more amendments to it. (Megan Kamerick / KUNM)

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT 3: Judicial elections

One of the constitutional amendments on the ballot this year concerns appointed judges. It’s asking voters if they think these judges should be spared election in their first year of appointment.

Some of these appointments are done by the governor when there is a mid-term job opening in a non-election year. According to the Legislative Council Service, the appointment judge would then serve until the next partisan election – even if that election is shortly after their appointment.

Constitutional Amendment 3 would delay that election until that judge has served for at least one year following appointment. So, in essence, it postpones the public’s evaluation of their performance.

As it stands, these judges are up for election at the next general election after they’re tapped, even if that election is a couple months after appointment.

New Mexico Supreme Court entrance
Austin Fisher
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Source NM
The front door of the New Mexico Supreme Court in Santa Fe.

Democratic State Sen. Joseph Cervantes of Doña Ana County is the amendment’s sponsor.

“The goal here right now is to assure that the public is evaluating judges after they’ve spent some time on the bench,” he said, “as opposed to the present time when the law requires the judge to stand for election at the first election after their appointment.”

During an amendment vote in the Senate at the beginning of the year, Cervantes said this will allow more private sector attorneys to apply for the position, increasing diversity.

But opponents say the amendment would delay the electoral process. State Senator Jeff Steinborn, also a Democrat from Doña Ana County, called it a “free pass” and seemed to chafe at the idea of appointed judges being exempt in their first year, potentially serving years before appearing on the ballot

“And to me that just takes a crucial option away from the public,” he said.

After someone is appointed to a judicial position, the judge must run in a competitive partisan election in order to serve the rest of their term. If appointed judges are then elected, at the end of that term, they run in a retention election. That election doesn’t have a competition and just asks if the public wants to keep the judge on the bench. (Emma Gibson / KUNM)

GENERAL OBLIGATION BOND 1: Senior centers

As senior centers across New Mexico begin to reopen their doors after pandemic shutdowns and fire evacuations, $24.5 million for the facilities is up for a vote in the November election. General Obligation Bond 1 — if approved — would go toward designing, renovating, or equipping centers across 21 counties and six pueblos.

The bond will help several senior centers purchase and equip ADA-accessible vehicles. Aging and Long-Term Services Department Secretary Katrina Hotrum-Lopez said the lack of accessibility of the centers’ fleets became apparent during this year’s historic fire season.

“People needed resources. They needed to get from one place to the next,” she said of senior citizens impacted by the massive blaze that tore through northern New Mexico, putting thousands under evacuation orders. “And if we can’t do non-medical transportation with somebody who needs to be in a wheelchair or has their oxygen with them, then I think we’ve failed our seniors. So we’re correcting that problem.”

wheelchair-accessible van
Beloncici
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Canva.Com

She said the need for vehicles also went up during the pandemic with an uptick in meal delivery, and has stayed there. The bond will also fund equipment for making meals. Hotrum-Lopez said food insecurity among seniors is a big problem — one that these centers are well-positioned to address.

“New Mexico is a poor state, but we have proud, proud seniors,” she said. “Not a lot of them love to ask for help, but they will go to a senior center for a meal because it’s about the engagement, it’s about the socialization. It’s not about a stereotype that they can’t afford food.”

The bond includes over $1.7 million Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham requested for tribal senior centers, according to the Legislative Finance Committee.

Hotrum-Lopez said the allocation will support tribal communities in meeting any immediate needs while her department builds out a “better program” to serve the needs for long-term investment and culturally-specific programming for New Mexico’s Native American seniors.

Gallup, which borders the Navajo Nation, is set to receive the largest share of this year’s senior center bond at just under $5.5 million. The bulk will go towards building a brand new center there, as Hotrum-Lopez said Gallup not only has an aging population, but an aging facility.

“The other thing about that population is that we know that a lot of grandparents take care of grandchildren there,” she said. “So we are really looking at how not only we can serve that senior, but then we can also get some natural supports in there that also serve that kiddo.”

Secretary Hotrum-Lopez said the new Gallup Regional Senior Center, which will replace the city’s existing neighborhood center, is an opportunity for the Aging and Long-Term Services Department to better meet seniors where they’re at, including in more rural areas of the state.

“We really, really want that Gallup center be the hub of us figuring out how to help our seniors in the way that they’d like, and living in the community of their choice,” she said.

The bond makes up the first round of funding for the center. A second round of funding is set to be introduced in the 2023 legislative session, according to the Capital Outlay Bureau. A bureau spokesperson said if either funding stream fails, the Gallup project could be delayed or downsized.

General obligation bonds result in public debt paid for by property taxes. Approval of any of this year’s three bond questions, however, will not result in a statewide tax increase, as the state’s Department of Finance and Administration indicates the current rate is high enough to cover the new debt as older debt expires. (Nash Jones / KUNM)

GENERAL OBLIGATION BOND 2: Libraries

The second of three bond questions on November’s ballot in New Mexico is about whether to boost the resources available at public and school-based libraries. At around $19 million, it would be the largest ever statewide library bond.

If approved, General Obligation Bond 2 will be split up, with $6 million each going to public libraries, K-12 school libraries, and academic libraries at colleges and universities, and another $1 million going to the 17 libraries on tribal lands.

The New Mexico Library Association requests the funds from lawmakers on behalf of all the state’s libraries. In 2020, they requested $9.5 million, but chair of the NMLA legislation committee Joe Sabatini said this year the state had more money.

“So we said ‘Let’s ask for double what that one was,’” he said.

Las Vegas Library Fire Season
Shaun Griswold
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Source NM
Smoke from the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon fires billows behind the Las Vegas Carnegie Public Library on April 29, 2022.

With local government oversight, the libraries can use their portion of the bond for books, other print and electronic media and equipment.

The academic libraries distribute their allotment based on student enrollment, so the larger universities get the bulk of the funds. But before they divvy it up, they pool a third of it and buy a suite of shared electronic resources that some smaller colleges may not be able to afford otherwise.

“And that way, if you’re at Mesalands Community College in Tucumcari, but somebody has a technical question about nursing that’s in a database about nursing — well, that happens to be in the package,” he said. “And that student and that faculty member get what the big guys get.”

Public and tribal libraries can spend some of their share of the bond on broadband infrastructure and even furniture and fixtures.

Sabatini said New Mexico voters have never rejected a library bond since they began in 2002 to appear on the ballot every other year.

“And we’re grateful to the citizens who continue to support this investment,” he said.

The statewide property tax rate will not go up if this — or any of this year’s three bonds — pass, according to the state’s Department of Finance and Administration. (Nash Jones / KUNM)

GENERAL OBLIGATION BOND 3: Tribal colleges and universities, and specialized populations

The largest by far, this bond would allocate nearly $216 million to public and tribal colleges and universities, along with schools that serve specialized populations.

While substantial, the Legislative Finance Committee says the education bond is only about half the amount schools requested from the Legislature for capital projects this year. In public financing, capital projects are long-term investments like buildings or equipment, and are paid for separately from operating expenses like staff wages.

Most of the funds would go to the University of New Mexico, New Mexico State University and their branch campuses. But 20 other community colleges and public universities would get a share too. Also on the list are Navajo Technical University and a branch of Diné College — both tribal land-grant schools — and three specialty schools: the New Mexico Military Institute, the New Mexico School for the Deaf, and the New Mexico School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

UNM Center for Fine Arts
Nash Jones
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KUNM
The University of New Mexico College of Fine Arts is slated to be the largest beneficiary of general obligation bond 3 if voters approve it in November. UNM plans to spend $45,000,000 on building and equipping a center for collaborative art and technology.

The projects outlined in the bill passed by the Legislature in January include planning, constructing and equipping new facilities, and renovating or demolishing existing ones. Some of the schools plan to upgrade air conditioning, information technology, or fire suppression systems.

UNM would spend about half of its $89 million allotment on a collaborative art and technology center for the College of Fine Arts. Central New Mexico Community College, New Mexico Junior College and Navajo Technical University all plan to spend their share of the bond on new trades buildings.

General obligation bonds result in public debt paid for by property taxes. Approval of any of this year’s three bond questions, however, will not result in a statewide tax increase, as the state’s Department of Finance and Administration explains, the current rate is high enough to cover the new debt as older debt expires. (Nash Jones / KUNM)

BERNALILLO COUNTY SHERIFF

John Allen (D) 
Paul Pacheco (R)

Vying for the position being vacated by Sheriff Manny Gonzales are Democrat John D. Allen and Republican Paul Pacheco – both of whom ran in a crowded midterm back in June. Seven democrats and four republicans were on the primary ballot.

John Allen is a former homicide sergeant with the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office. He says he has the experience and know-how to address issues like low morale within deputy ranks and fear of public backlash.

“And let me tell you something. We’re short on first responders,” he said. “Whether it’s dispatchers, deputies, officers for APD and firefighters. And if we don’t work together, this crime is going to go up and it’s not going to stop.”

Paul Pacheco is a former state representative and 27-year veteran of the Albuquerque Police Department. In a campaign commercial, he points to the need for more officers.

“We need to focus and concentrate on putting more deputies on the street,” Pacheco said “Catch and release and sanctuary cities? Those are just wrong.”

The Sheriff’s Office employs just over 300 deputies with jurisdiction in and out of Albuquerque city limits. (Bryce Dix / KUNM)

BERNALILLO COUNTY COMMISSION: Districts 1 and 5

Bernalillo County voters on the western boundary and east across Sandia Mountains will elect two new commissioners to sit on the county board that’s responsible for oversight of development, elections and budgets.

District 5 voters are deciding between Democrat Eric Olivas and Republican Judy Young to represent an area mixed with commercial retail spaces in Four Hills and Uptown Albuquerque stretching to the far East Mountains filled with Open Space and public safety centers. Olivas won a contested primary against the incumbent by more than 600 votes. Young topped three candidates to win her primary with 42% of Republican voters’ support.

District 1 will see a new person in the seat long-served by commissioner Debbie O’Malley. The area represents Democratic precinct strongholds in Albuquerque’s North Valley and Downtown corridors, which suits candidate Barbara Baca. She received 12,117 votes during the primary. Her Republican opponent Michaela Chavez won unopposed with 5,110 votes.

All of the candidates share similar views in supporting the Gateway Center as a method to alleviating issues for unhoused people in Albuquerque and the county. All candidates want to support law enforcement budgets and maintain funding for public safety mechanisms such as county courts and jails. These perspectives signal what the candidates say about supporting a collaborative approach with city services. (Shaun Griswold / Source NM)

SANTA FE COUNTY SHERIFF

Adan Mendoza (D)

The Santa Fe County sheriff’s race was essentially decided in the June primary when Sheriff Adan Mendoza beat challenger David Webb Jr. to secure the Democratic nomination. There is no candidate for the seat from the Republican Party or any other.

Webb, a 14-year Santa Fe Police Officer, told the Santa Fe New Mexican that there was a lack of leadership and communication within the Sheriff’s Office and among local law enforcement offices that he planned to remedy.

Mendoza said staff and community engagement were among his top priorities. Mendoza won the primary with about 56% of the vote — even after a no confidence vote from the sheriff deputies’ union in January. (Kaveh Mowahed / KUNM)

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